Help me pivot my pizza sauce!
September 15, 2017 11:45 AM   Subscribe

A few years ago I perfected my pizza sauce. Now I am getting a sensation of... Spaghetti. Help me tweak my recipe!

Here is the recipe:
Combine over low heat:
28 oz crushed tomatoes (a canned mixture of crushed tomato and tomato puree)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 t salt
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 t basil flakes
1 t oregano flakes
1 T "parmesan" shaker cheese
1 glug (2-4T) olive oil

Heat, but do not boil. When warm, put in container. Spoon onto pizza crust. Makes enough for about two pizzas.
What is something I could change? Maybe one or two tweaks to make a subtle shift ? What ingredients maybe have I overlooked? Or am using incorrectly?
posted by rebent to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
THIS recipe, from Peter Reinhart, is our go-to. You don't cook it, and the only optional thing we add from his list is the oregano. I think the vinegar and the "no cook" bit is the magic - maybe remove the oil in yours and try a splash of vinegar?
posted by ersatzkat at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Shot of vodka. Tomatoes have an non-zero amount of alcohol soluble components to it.
I use both roasted, and fresh garlic in mine. I use both fresh and dried basil in mine.

Mine is really similar to yours, but I bloom the dried herbs in some shimmering oil before adding the rest of the goods. I usually go, herbs, fresh garlic, saute for a few minutes, then add everything else.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I add onions and saute them in olive oil with the garlic and red pepper then add tomato. I add @ 1/2- 1 cup of red wine. Wine and onions add sweetness, but also a nice depth of flavor.

Do you eat meat? I brown a mix of sweet and hot Italian sausage, remove it, do the onions, add garlic, pepper flakes and Italian seasoning mix, and let it all simmer at least an hour so the sausage gets really tender.
posted by theora55 at 12:00 PM on September 15, 2017

Best answer: Well, it depends what direction you're looking to go. I'm thinking when you say it's too spaghetti sauce like that it's maybe not fresh and acidic for your liking? Too much of a long-cooked flavor. If that's right, you might try:

--- using fresh tomatoes. Classical technique would be to blanch and peel them, I'm way too lazy for that myself. Just give 'em a rough chop and whirl through a food processor.

--- if the fresh tomatoes near you aren't flavourful, could try adding a glug of red wine vinegar to bump the acidity just before you take it off the heat

--- fresh herbs instead of dried (add at last minute off heat)

--- or add more herbs and spices in general - I find one difference between pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce is that pizza sauce is more heavily seasoned. It's got to stand up to a bunch of melted cheese and other strong flavours, after all.

This is just a taste thing, but I've never come across a recipe that adds Parmesan directly to the sauce before myself. I'd think it would tend to mellow out the acidity, could try omitting that.
posted by Diablevert at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2017

Best answer: For some reason, the Parmesan in the sauce screams "spaghetti" to me.

Also, you might try experimenting with different brands and types of canned tomatoes. I use canned whole tomatoes and crush them myself. I have found the flavor can vary pretty significantly between brands, and it's not always the most expensive ones that I prefer.
posted by primethyme at 12:16 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think Marcella Hazan's famous tomato sauce makes an amazing rustic-ish pizza sauce. I use a lot less butter than the recipe calls for because of the cheese, though. It's great - a little sweet, a little bright. I also just found this Serious Eats Food Lab recipe that uses the Hazan technique with some tweaks.
posted by lunasol at 12:19 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: back off the herbs.
use a 1:1 mix of butter and olive oil as your fat.
use fresh tomatoes, chuck the mixture into a blender.
posted by entropone at 12:20 PM on September 15, 2017

Best answer: I would say a shot or two of white wine. Brings out the flavor with a slight kick. Adding a chopped roasted red pepper is another favorite trick.
posted by Mchelly at 12:25 PM on September 15, 2017

Some sugar might help. Careful not to use too much, though.
posted by Grither at 12:30 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you can get canned San Marzano tomatoes, they're totally worth it. I like the Mutti brand.
posted by neushoorn at 12:46 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd start by trying different tomatoes. We bought some crushed tomatoes at Costco recently and they were like the worst of 70s spaghetti.
posted by fedward at 12:58 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

fennel seed
posted by banshee at 1:27 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mine is, per 6oz of tomato sauce so you would double or triple:

1/2 tsp each of:
garlic powder
red pepper flakes

1 tsp of basil

Those are the basic proportions....I know the rosemary and thyme is weird but with the extra salt it really works and seems...special.

I think if you wanted to be more classic you would do pure basil and garlic and screw everything else.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:39 PM on September 15, 2017

Oh, I should add I don't cook it at all, I put it in a jar and shake it and then spoon it on the pizzas. Its nice if it gets to sit because rosemary needs a little extra time to rehydrate.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:40 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is my go-to. It's is super-flavorful.
posted by pantarei70 at 1:42 PM on September 15, 2017

Add a dash of balsamic vinegar & simmer for a few minutes. It unites all the flavors, you get the tang of vinegar & the sweet of balsamic. I'd maybe look into your tinned tomatoes & try some other brands, all brands & types aren't the same.
posted by wwax at 1:53 PM on September 15, 2017

I go a completely different direction for the tomatoes base in my pizza sauce.... I use a can of tomato paste and a can of water as the base, then add garlic, salt, basil, oregano, and a very generous amount of olive oil. I cook it in the microwave for a few minutes, as experimentation has shown that it makes no difference than stovetop.

I find the taste and texture of the tomato paste base makes it much more 'pizza saucy' than using canned or fresh tomatoes, plus it is super fast and easy.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:56 PM on September 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

There is only a small time of year where fresh tomatoes are advisable. That would be right now. Otherwise canned are going to be better.

I agree with everyone to skip the shaker parmesan. I would also skip basil.

The few times I've made pizza I go almost comically basic - salt, olive oil, oregano and canned tomatoes that I whiz up in the food processor. No cooking, since it will be cooked in the oven. Seriously, that's it. It's from a half-remembered Cook's Illustrated recipe.
posted by O9scar at 2:27 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Pureed tomatoes (good quality canned, drained) and, sometimes, a very, very small grating of nutmeg.

That's it. Do not cook the sauce. Use less than you think you need. No basil. No oregano. No garlic. No salt. Maaaaybe a tiny, tiny grind of pepper.

Go super-simple, then add in variations if you want. (You should not want.)

Tomato sauce should be brightly tomato-y. The freshly-grated nutmeg adds an unidentifiable warmth.

Anything else is Prego.

Here endeth the gospel.
posted by Caxton1476 at 2:36 PM on September 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm with Caxton1476 here. Start backing off the additions to the tomatoes and stop cooking it. Your pizza tastes like spaghetti because it is spaghetti sauce. Pizza sauce is cooked by the high heat of the pizza oven; it doesn't need to be cooked before hand.
posted by saeculorum at 4:09 PM on September 15, 2017

In addition to the great advice above I humbly suggest adding crushed fennel and anise seeds. Pizza sauce is so simple. Heat your dried seasonings (crushed red pepper, basil, crushed fennel and anise seeds, dash of granulated garlic) in a small pool olive oil. After the spices bloom add peeled San Marzano tomatoes... hand crushed. A couple of fresh basil sprigs and if you have it a Parmesan reggiano rind for the simmer(no salt needed if you have this). Simmer as long as you can. That's it! :)
posted by WalkingHorse at 6:49 PM on September 15, 2017

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